Jae R. Ballif
Athlete, Teacher, University Administrator,
Church Leader, & Author

Dr. Jae R. Ballif

Brigham Young High School
Class of 1949

In nominating Jae R. Ballif to receive a 1999 BYU Alumni Distinguished Service Award, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, LDS apostle and former BYU president, wrote only one sentence: "He's done everything!"

Doing everything means Ballif has been student body president and university provost, star fullback and popular physics professor from 1962 to 1995.

His connection with BYU extends through much of his life -- his father, Ariel Smith Ballif, Sr., was a popular BYU professor, and Ballif attended Brigham Young High School, where he was student body president and played football, basketball, baseball, and track, graduating in the Class of 1949.

He came to BYU on a basketball scholarship in 1949, but he chose to play football instead and he became co-captain of the team and was an all-conference and honorable mention All-American fullback.

He was also the cadet commander of the 1,700 students in the BYU ROTC program. He and his mother, Artemesia Romney Ballif, finished their undergraduate degrees together in 1953.

After military service took him to Japan and graduate study took him to Los Angeles, Ballif returned to Provo as a professor of physics.

During his 33 years at BYU, he was the founding dean of the College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences, administrative vice president, and provost and academic vice president.

But to the students enrolled in his classes, he was a beloved teacher.

"He has a great personal warmth and magnetism," says physics professor Grant W. Mason. "When you go to talk to him, you feel like you're his best friend and always have been." Mason says such an attribute served Ballif well in the classroom and in his leadership positions. "He was loved by people and was therefore able to motivate them."

Ballif's teaching style facilitated student involvement. In the large physics classes he taught (Physics 100 and Physical Science 100), he employed innovative methods and interesting demonstrations.

Long before it became popular in the education community, he was instituting self-pacing programs for slower students. His method for teaching basic physics emphasized concepts, when a mathematical approach was the norm.

This conceptual philosophy was later integrated into a textbook, which he co-authored, and course structure for Physical Science 100. He received the Karl G. Maeser Distinguished Teaching Award in 1972 and a Karl G. Maeser Professorship in General Education in 1994.

As an administrator, Ballif was known for his great vision, clear ideas, and love for the university. He was at once "sweet-tempered" and fierce in his commitment to valued principles.

Calling ideas the "life-blood of universities," he stressed that faculty have a responsibility to cull and order and disseminate -- to both students and society at large -- the best ideas of humankind.

"The essence of universities is ideas," he told the BYU community in 1986. "The essence of great universities is the quality of the search for and our examination of those ideas. The essence of Brigham Young University is to let the light of revealed truth enlarge our vision and guide our struggle to understand and integrate all ideas that are true into one harmonious whole that they may then be a blessing to the world in which we live."

Jae R. Ballif
Jae R. Ballif

Brief Biography of Dr. Jae R. Ballif, '49

Jae R. Ballif, born in 1931, is the son of Ariel S. Ballif and his wife, Artemesia Romney Ballif. Artemesia is the daughter of George S. Romney and Artemesia Redd, and is the sister of Marion G. Romney. Jae's brother, Ariel Ballif, Jr., was prominent in Utah theater.

Jae Ballif graduated from Brigham Young High School, Provo, Utah, in the Class of 1949. He earned his bachelors degree from BYU in 1953, graduating in the same year as his mother. He joined the BYU faculty in 1962. He received a Ph.D. from U.C.L.A in 1962.

Dr. Ballif was the founding dean of BYU's College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences. Together with William E. Dibble, he authored a textbook in 1969, Conceptual Physics. Ballif & Dibble teamed up again to write Physics: Fundamentals and Frontiers in 1979.

Ballif is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Among other positions in the Church, he served as a bishop, stake president and stake patriarch. From 1977 to 1979, Jae R. Ballif served as President of the Massachusetts Boston Mission of the LDS Church.

In 1986, Jae R. Ballif authored the book, In Search of Light and Truth, and it was published by Bookcraft. He contributed an article on the Restoration of the Melchizedek Priesthood to the Encyclopedia of Mormonism.

Dr. Ballif was appointed Provost of BYU, and he served in that position from 1979-1989, after which he returned to being a member of the school's physics faculty. He is now retired.

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